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Internal Liberal angst.

Angst and frustration; there are a lot of both on display on the Liberal blogosphere today over the possibility that the Liberals may yet again abstain on the Budget, which would be a sign that the Nervous Nellies in the Liberal caucus have again prevailed over those who feel it is more then justifiable to go to an election now.

I have a couple of thoughts: first, I’m going to parrot Jeff over at his aforementioned blogpiece; regardless of what the Liberals think they should or should not do on the Budget, they should not be going around openly proclaiming (or leaking) that you don’t favour bringing down the government on the Budget or what the Liberal strategy may be or should be, or grousing about this or that. That’s the equivalent to openly showing Harper and the Conservatives your hand in poker before it’s even played. I can’t believe the communications people in the OLO aren’t screaming this at the Liberal caucus to be at least somewhat cagey with your responses to the media, so as to at least keep the Cons partially guessing what the strategy may or may not be. The result of all this public musing is an undermining of the Liberal position.

Secondly, my position on this has been clear – I thought we should have gone to an election in October 2007, and I obviously think we should be now. Many other Liberal bloggers and grassroots Liberal members do as well – they think it’s seriously damaging our credibility as a party to the voters when we abstain from non-confidence votes or back off on positions for the sake of avoiding a non-confidence motion that defeats the Conservatives. Many of us who favor this position of trying to get rid of the Cons sooner rather then later believe we appear scared to the electorate by continually backing down.

The Nervous Nellies in the Liberal caucus disagree obviously. I saw one anonymous Liberal in a local paper proclaim that no one who is an average voter even remembers the past abstentions – and who knows, perhaps he’s right. However, if this strategy urging of theirs to abstain on the upcoming Budget is ultimately adopted, and the Liberals abstain, subsequently go to an election somewhere down the road, and that fails to turf the Conservatives out of office, not only will Dion have to be held accountable for listening to that advice, but those folks who urged Dion to take the advice in the first place should be identified, and if they’re sitting MP’s, held accountable in their ridings by the Liberal members and as they say in the US, “primary them”, (contest their nomination for that particular riding) with someone who won’t be a Nervous Nellie if they get elected in that riding.


21 comments to Internal Liberal angst.

  • The ONLY plausible reason for not calling an election this week, is if the Liberals are expecting an election to interfere with a criminal investigation into Cadscam. Since there is no investigation (yet?), I see no reason. The Liberals are (as the Blogging Tories say) unfit to govern.

  • Mark G.

    I’ve heard of fair weather friends, and now I guess I’ve seen fair weather Liberals.

  • mike h

    I think me dion will call an election when he grows a set of stones

  • Locusta emersonia

    As an outsider and ordinary Joe I think Dion is playing it smart by allowing Harper enough rope to hang himself. If there is an election now, many committees, investigations and probes will fall by the wayside, let alone the legislation that has been worked up by all parties for the benefit of Canada. Those outcomes will be lost or buried by the press in all the election hype and Canadians will never realize how badly they have been had.

    Why give Harper what he so desperately wants? Why does Mr. Fixed Election Date need an election now?

    I think the Liberal brand can take a few hits and remain strong. Big and small L liberals should stick by Dion. Even if you think there is better leadership out there, there is no way the route can be changed at this late date to show a better front. Harper must be stopped but there is time for the full impact of his policies to come on home. Staying with Dion IS the best option.

    I think Dion is a man with a plan and I admire his temerity and tenacity. People I talk with think so too and they are far from political. Dion has a squeaky clean reputation and an honest personality. He’s friendly, fair and dog-gonnit people like him! The more people see of him the better it gets.

    One thing that will stick in Harper’s and his follower’s craws is a united Liberal party backing a leader through thick and thin. Even Harper cannot beat his own people into liking him. They follow but do not care for him. Right there is the reason he will fail Canada.

    Canada requires a united Liberal Party backing an honest leader. All the nervous nellies and naysayers should keep their thoughts private. A united Liberal Party will clean Harper’s clock, kick him out of Sussex and run this country properly. Keep your eyes on the prize. Canada deserves no less.

  • The argument that the Libs are  not going to bring down the govt. now for this or that "tactical" reason eventually  loses place to the impression that the Libs will not go out and fight the fight that needs to be waged. They need to go out and do that because the Cons. are not good for Canada and I suspect just about everyone knows that by now. The Cons. have so little belief in themselves that they allow Harper to tyrannize them to an outrageous degree. Make no mistake, the next election will be fought in the alley first, and then in the rink and it has to be done. The Libs have to  get off their collective rumps and show us they are the natural governing party. Put forward national policies and get on with it, never mind all the clever little dodges of the Cons add men.  Who do you know that believes Harper on anything, who has not noticed that the Cons. grow more virulent and embittered every day, who has  not recognized they do not care a  hoot over national policy.  What, exactly, are the Libs waiting for, a coronation?

  • Jay

    Libs talking point ‘WE will do it when WE decide,  not when Harper decides’
    Addendum: "And to hell with the nine million Canadians who voted against the Harper agenda that we continue to rubber-stamp" (?).

  • I think we need a shot of Obama optimism: Yes We Can!

  • wilson

    Well Scott, perhaps Dion will bring down the government on one of the many opposition days schedualed before April,  maybe over the environment.  Certainly an issue that all 3 opps can agree on. Libs talking point ‘WE will do it when WE decide,  not when Harper decides’……

  • I just think that everyone should just settle down and let the party and it’s leader decide on the best course of action.  I mean, do we have confidence in them or not?

    Obviously not…….


  • rufous

    Just one question:  why is the gang-that-can’t-shoot-straight so bloody anxious to have the election RIGHT NOW – do they know something we don’t…yet.  It’s not like the polls are showing a Harper majority right now.

    I’m certainly no political analyst, but I just don’t see why the Liberals should give a crap about what the CRAP want.  Besides, they (CRAP) look as silly now as they did the last time they ‘unveiled’ their state-of-the-art ‘ war room – it’s like, what if they had a war and nobody came?

    I think all the talk about ‘nervous nellies’ is being overdone.  It’s a pretty good tactic to keep the ‘gang’ off balance tho, seems to me. 

    I just think that everyone should just settle down and let the party and it’s leader decide on the best course of action.  I mean, do we have confidence in them or not?

  • MississaugaJoan

    Let’s call a spade a spade, or in this case, Harper an American wannabe.

    Like all high school kids, we belonged to different clubs and admired different people. Each of us had different personalities and different values and different friends.

    Harper admires the American Empire (which like the Roman Empire, declined because of poor leadership). He wants Canada to be a member of The U.S. club. He admires Americans. His values are in line with the Republican Party.

    Fortunately, Harper, like any high school student, belongs to a club that does not represent all the high school students.

    Through MANIPULATION and DISTRACTION Harper will attempt to become student-body president. He knows he does not have the charisma nor the belief system to get elected.

    The problem is, if Harper is elected (with a majority), he almost becomes God (due to our parliamentary system). Harper then can align his admiration for anything American onto Canada.

    As Liberals, we must unite to avoid the further "Americanization of Canada."

    Note: also posted in Cherniak’s comments. Not necessarily, since Cherniak has a tendency to pick and chose what comments he allows on his blog.

  • Paul

    I am no fan of the Liberal Party. That being said, they must certainly bring down the government now or face the consequences later. It doesn’t help Dion that he is crowing about a mismanaged economy and yet will allow another budget to pass unchallenged. He looks opportunistic and weak. The hissy fits are sounding shrill.
    This current parliamentary configuration is not working. It would have been much better for the Liberal Party if Harper had won a majority. It would have provided the cover that they needed.

  • (T)hose folks who urged Dion to take the advice in the first place should be identified, and if they’re sitting MP’s, held accountable in their ridings by the Liberal members and as they say in the US, “primary them”, (contest their nomination for that particular riding) with someone who won’t be a Nervous Nellie if they get elected in that riding.

    Good luck with that.

  • Why we should go to an election

    1) We’re polling competitively with Conservatives and are ahead in key provinces (Ontario and Quebec). The governing party usually loses even more points during an election, and this governing party will most likely lose points because of their terrible record.
    2) The Budget is the best place for Dion to knock the Conservatives off their stride. The recent book published by Jim Prentice bombed and this shows a major weakness for the Conservative party.
    3) Going to an election on the economy makes the most sense for Dion. The economy is the single best issue for Dion to champion during an election because it comprehensively covers the other major pillars of his platform – the environment (Research and Development, knowledge-based economy) and social justice (sharing the wealth and taking care of all Canadians).
    4) Not going to an election on the Budget brings us to another contentious vote – Afghanistan. The media have pounded Dion on the issue and tend to side with Harper’s version of the story where we need to establish "command and control" in that country. Signalling that we are willing to capitulate on the budget means we’re also willing to capitulate on Afghanistan.

  • Wow… this is a big change from Mr. Dion’s tonne back at New Years, when he was crowing about taking down this government. But now that’s changing.

    Like I said over at my blog today, if Mr. Dion was not going to vote this down on some deeply held principle or long held position, while I would disagree with it, I would completely respect it. But that doesn’t seem to be the  case here, and now there is a clear pattern of abstaining. This isn’t abstaining on a couple of votes now. This is now 5 months worth of abstentions, and of those, a Mini-Budget and a now a Budget.

    On the related topic of those Conservative attack ads, has anyone else noticed that the $62.5 Billion figure is almost the exact same figure as the $60 Billion, the total of the GST and Corporate tax cuts that the Liberals allowed to pass with their early abstention on the Mini-Budget??? I think that the Conservatives ads on this are just wrong in tone and approach, but it’s interesting how the supposed cost of the Liberals spending promises to date are almost equal to the amount of money cut from the Treasury, the capacity to pay for those cuts. Just an observation.

  • mushroom

    Not going in October 2007 may prove critical in the political career of Stephane Dion.  Losing an election in October 2007, but putting forth a strong performance on the campaign trail may actually boost Dion’s leadership.  He wins a quick leadership review, the party becomes energized at the party convention, and we try to defeat the Cons in early 2009.  Dion remains firmly in control, sticking to his principles, and the party rank and file sticks with him hell or high water.

    Now it is a different story.  Questions of his leadership will continue not with one abstention but on crucial votes of confidence throughout this Parliamentary session.  The party coffers of the NDP and the Greens continues to fill,  stealing valuable contributions from potential donors who should be going to us.  Dion is now a "one shot or bust" leader as rivals become stronger through time.  Conspirators become more active once Parliament recesses this summer, as politicos cannot relax while sitting in their lakeside cottages.  All the advantages he had in winning the Liberal leadership in 2006 becomes more distant, as people remember the near present more.   

  • Joseph Angolano

    Here’s my cold and rational take on this. Scott, I thought that going to an election after the Outremont debacle would have been insane. If the Liberals want to form government, they at least need to have the seat count in Quebec stay the same. That can only happen if the Bloc is relatively strong to ward off possible Conservative gains. 

    At any rate, there are two main flaws with the "dove strategy".

    1) "It is going to get worse for Harper" = How do you know? Who has a crystal ball here? The polls are deadlocked between the Liberals and Conservatives and have been for about a year. An election is the sort of thing that could break that logjam.

    2) "No one remembers the abstentions". The NDP will. And they have more money than ever to spend on telling Canadians that the Liberals did not defend them. Even if people are right in guessing that it will get worse for Harper, how do you get to "later" without looking like a weakling? The only way that Dion can win is if Canadians a) have a lack of trust in Harper, and b) think that Dion is the only viable alternative to Harper. If they think there are two or three, the Liberals cannot win.

    I’ve written this on Jason’s blog before. Fortune rewards those without temerity. It punishes those with it. Saying that voters will not remember the abstentions is leaving yourself to be a hostage to fortune.

    Sorry, ALW, you’ve got it completely wrong. An election now is not a certain win for Harper. Are "the odds really bad" of seeing the Liberals pick ten seats off the Conservatives in Ontario? No. For that to happen, the Conservatives have to lose 5 points from their 2006 totals. Some polls show that that has already happened.  Could the Conservatives lose 5 seats in Atlantic Canada? Yes, it is possible, and probably likely.

    If that happens, and all the results everywhere else stays the same, it will be Prime Minister Dion sooner than you think.

  • This hasn’t stopped the party from calling around asking for money due to "an impending election this Spring" which is clear if you "read the papers."

    As per the fundraising phone call I got earlier today. 😉

  • Further to what Raphael said, if you look at the polls, you do see evidence of a shift.  Since the fall, the Cons are down, but that support hasn’t really moved to the Liberals.  In fact, the NDP numbers are now as high as they have been for almost two years.  This rise comes after a reall lull in support last fall.  Coincidence?  People are wavering on the Cons, but the Libs are giving them no reason to move to them, hence they are looking elsewhere. Scott, all this "nobody cares if the Liberals abstain" is frankly nonsense.  While people aren’t glued to their sets, people do catch the news, read a paper, the broad strokes.  If people don’t notice that the Liberals are taking a pass on the budget, or other votes, then they sure as heck aren’t noticing all the other things the opposition attacks Harper on.  If people aren’t paying attention, then they aren’t paying attention to all of it, not just what we want to ignore, while trumpeting the things we deem important.  Canadians know the government embarrassed us abroad on the environment, it was given considerably coverage.  That is why, when asked, people have no confidence in this government’s ability to "lead" on that question.  People have noticed, get it?  It is the same with hiding on important votes, the media covers that extensively and people hear it- everyone just concludes Dion is a wimp, the Liberals weak.  I say it again, absolute nonsense for anyone to suggest you can cower in your role as leader of the opposition, and it not effect you.  Ottawa may be an esoteric bubble, but the odd thing penetrates to the masses, particularly the big frames.

  • ALW

    1) All this Nervous Nellies talk reminds me of the 1993 electoral earthquake, but suffice to say Stephane Dion is not Jean Chretien, Stephen Harper is not Kim Campbell, and the palpable anti-Mulroney animosity of that year does not plague Harper, nor is there a divided right to hand dozens of otherwise unwinnable ridings to the Grits. So yes, there’s scaredy cats in the Grit caucus, but what else is new? Yours is a party built exclusively for winning, and winning is not assured right now for some MPs, so why would those sitting MP want to put their own seat on the line? Selfish? Absolutely. Unexpected? Not in the least.
    2) I actually agree with the anonymous Liberals who point out that few people even remember the abstentions of last fall. The vulnerability of Dion as "not a leader" is already established; since he’s already got that albatross, I really don’t know how much worse he can paint himself. The power of the Liberal brand is so strong in some places, the party could run a scarecrow and still win the seat, so there’s simply no conceivable way the Liberals could ever drop below, say, 25% of the popular vote. So why all this beating yourselves up over "losing credibility"? That presumes the bulk of Liberal voters care about credibility. If they did, they’d already have abandoned the Liberal camp after the Tories’ definition of Dion. But they haven’t!
    3) At least you and Jeff have the balls to fight an election. If I was a Grit, I’d be advocating the same, because even though the odds of winning are bad, they are better than zero, and a loss allows you to pitch Dion overboard.

  • I can’t see the Liberals not losing supporters over their indecision. The NDP stand to gain soft liberal support for their inability to be decisive.

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